Patriots

Point/Counterpoint: Do the Patriots have enough to convince Tom Brady to stay?

Point/Counterpoint: Do the Patriots have enough to convince Tom Brady to stay?

Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry are back for a special offseason edition of "Point/Counterpoint," where they go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. Today's topic, unsurprisingly, involves Tom Brady:

If the Patriots want to keep Tom Brady in New England -- and we can debate whether or not that's what they should want, given what it might cost in terms of money and player additions -- their best bet is to keep him from getting to free agency altogether. If he officially hits the market, the floodgates will be open, the bidding war will be well underway, and the Patriots will have an additional $6.75 million dead-money cap charge hitting their books. 

Convincing Brady to eschew the official start of free-agency will be no easy task. He wants to see what's out there for him. But the Patriots might be able to do it if they blow him out of the water by surrounding him with talent before the league year begins on Mar. 18. 

How? Trades. The Patriots and other clubs can come to agreements on trades well before the start of the new league year and then sign off on those deals as soon as the new league year kicks off. Signing players via free agency, and promising Brady they'll be able to lock those players down, would be a tougher road. 

For instance, telling Brady that they'll make a competitive offer to free-agent tight end Hunter Henry might not be enough for the Patriots to convince the 43-year-old to stay. There's simply no guarantee Henry will want to sign, especially if Brady's future is up in the air.

To overwhelm Brady with trades seems more feasible. The Patriots could potentially trade their top draft choice, No. 23 overall, for either Odell Beckham or Stefon Diggs. Both have four years remaining on their respective contracts. Both will count between $14 and $15 million on the cap in 2020. Both offer Brady a true No. 1, game-breaking target. Both have been disgruntled, and both are on teams with new offensive staffs. Seems plausible. 

But why stop there?

If the wideout position is a little crowded, and if the Patriots would like to clear some cap space to add Beckham or Diggs, they could potentially trade Mohamed Sanu and a third-round pick to Tampa Bay for tight end OJ Howard. Sanu would complement Bucs receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin underneath. Howard, meanwhile, has been a relative afterthought in Bruce Arians' downfield passing game. For him, going to New England would represent a fresh start as he goes into the final year of his rookie contract. The Patriots would pick up about $3 million in cap space with the move. The Bucs have oodles of space already and probably wouldn't mind taking on a little more dough to add a third-round pick. They also have another capable tight end on the roster in Cameron Brate.

Perhaps the Patriots could promise Brady they'll use another one of their third-round picks (they're projected to have three this year) to add a tight end in the draft. LSU's Thad Moss (Randy's son) might pique Brady's interest. Then they could tell Brady they're willing to make an offer to acquire his pal Danny Amendola, who's a free agent. 

Suddenly Brady would be looking at a receiver group that includes Beckham (or Diggs), Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry and Danny Amendola. His tight ends would be Howard and Moss. The cost would be steep, but it might be enough to convince Brady to finish out his career in New England. Even if there are other clubs out there willing to pay him more.

  

“…and then we’ll see if Randy wants to come back and you never know about Gronk. I’m sure we can get the Browns to move on OBJ. Or Landry. Maybe both. Definitely both. We’ll get both. And we actually cloned Scar so don’t worry about the offensive line coach and you might not have heard but Ryan Izzo retired. So … whaddya think? Please, Tom? Please? We’re trying over here. Help us help you.” –

The fever dream scenarios in which Bill Belichick pitches plans to Make Tom Stay are flowing now.

These are the final days of Brady Limbo: the period between the disappointing end to a confusing 2019 season and the witching hour when the Patriots and Brady make their decision to run it back one more time or shut it down.

In a little more than three weeks we’ll know if the radical course change we talked about in December actually happens or not.

Until then, idle time is being filled with spitballing about what the Patriots might do to veer away from the scenario that – when looked at objectively – they’ve already chosen.

The notion that Belichick, in his 46th season as an NFL coach, is going to get sentimental or nostalgic enough to go “all-in” for 2020 to appease a 43-year-old quarterback is a little cuckoo.

Belichick began laying the Brady succession plan six years ago in 2014. Brady – to his credit and to the benefit of Belichick’s “greatest coach ever” legacy – blew that succession plan to bits. Good for Brady. Good for Belichick realizing that – as much as he loved Jimmy Garoppolo – Brady still had more good miles in him no matter what the odometer said.

But rather than a full-on offensive overhaul, it’s a lot more realistic to imagine the Patriots making tweaks for 2020: tweaks that will happen whether Brady is a Patriot or not.

They've been busy spending on offense. They’ve spent three first-round picks on Isaiah Wynn, Sony Michel and N’Keal Harry and a 2020 second-rounder on Mohamed Sanu.

Wynn will be a Pro Bowl-level player if he can catch a break health-wise. Michel showed as a rookie what he can do given a sufficient array of blocking talent in front of him. Harry barely took his first steps as an NFL player and – looking objectively at what he showed over the eight games (including playoffs) – there were plenty of plays to like.

Sanu’s ankle was a mess, and he and Brady couldn’t get things ironed out. Meanwhile, Julian Edelman was beaten down to sawdust, could barely raise one arm, couldn’t cut and still wound up with 100 catches. He’s got more gas in his tank too.  

Any idiot can tell the Patriots blew it at tight end by ignoring the spot in Gronk’s final seasons. That was their No. 1 offensive issue in 2019 because their reliance on the position in both the running and passing game meant the dropoff was from elite to non-existent. Losing James Develin and David Andrews were kicks to the ribs after the Patriots were already down. Maybe both are back at the level they were. Maybe not. It’s a point of concern as is the possible departure of left guard Joe Thuney.

The Patriots have to address those spots or change their scheme to fit the players they do have a helluva lot better than they did last year. And, again, that’s going to happen, Brady or not.

Believing that Belichick is going to have an epiphany in which he says, “We’ve been doing it all wrong! Let’s go bananas and load up for this year!” is just not realistic.

More realistic? Belichick saying to Brady, “Look, we have the people in house. We have the coaching. We had bad luck with health and personnel plans fell through. As you know. I don’t have some big list of players I’m going to buy. I’m not Santa Claus and I don’t want you on my lap telling me which receiver you want. All I want to know is, are you in or are you out?"

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Jonathan Kraft shares inside story of Patriots plane bringing masks from China

Jonathan Kraft shares inside story of Patriots plane bringing masks from China

The New England Patriots, owner Robert Kraft and president Jonathan Kraft teamed up with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to transport over 1 million N95 protective masks from China to the United States on Thursday.

That's the headline. But there's a whole lot more to the story.

Jonathan Kraft joined 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday to share more details on the elaborate, multi-day process that led to the Patriots commissioning their team plane to bring much-needed supplies back to Massachusetts to aid health care workers in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

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According to Kraft, the plan all started when Baker called him while he was in a virtual meeting with the Massachusetts General Hospital finance committee. (Kraft is a member of the MGH Board of Trustees.)

"The governor said to me, 'I am so ---ing frustrated. ... I have had a couple of big batches of PPE (personal protective equipment), and at the end of the day they just haven't come through,' " Kraft said.

"And (Baker) said, 'We just through a third party secured well over 1 million masks, N95s, in China. But we have no way of getting them here. The supply chains are totally frozen. Do you think people who have airplanes would be willing to fly over?"

That's when Kraft had the idea to use the Patriots' team plane, a wide-body Boeing 767 that's bigger than most commercial jets.

"I said, 'You know what, our team flies around on a 767 ... and we have a huge cargo hold on that," Kraft told Baker.

Fast forward to this week, when the "Air Kraft" was en route to China via an overnight stop in Alaska. But a host of logistics had to be worked out before then, from getting special permission from the FAA to fly a "humanitarian mission" to securing a safe landing zone in China -- to making sure the plane was ready for a such a long flight.

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"First, we had to make sure the plane was equipped with the right software. It needed one upgrade," Kraft said.

Once the plane landed in Shenzen, China, there was another logistical challenge: The plane could only be on the ground for three hours, and no one could leave the plane during that period due to concerns over contracting the virus.

"If we had a maintenance or a tech issue, our maintenance or tech guys couldn't have gotten off the plane to correct it," Kraft said. "Once the pilots left the plane, they would need to be in quarantine for 14 days."

What followed was a three-hour rush to load roughly 1.2 million masks onto the Patriots' team plane that was barely completed in time.

"It was like a NASCAR pit stop," Kraft said. "Fortunately we didn't have any mechanical issues, and we got it done with about three or four minutes to spare and got back in the air for what was a nine-hour flight back (to Alaska)."

That's just a sampling of the details Kraft shared about the incredible trip, which ended successfully Thursday night when the Air Kraft landed at Boston's Logan Airport. (Kraft's full interview is worth a listen.)

But the journey ultimately was a success, and Mass. health care workers are certainly grateful as confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to climb.

Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard eager to get started after Tom Brady's arrival

Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard eager to get started after Tom Brady's arrival

O.J. Howard could benefit from Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers more than any other player on the team.

Brady has targeted tight ends quite often throughout his 20-year career, and his connection with future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski was legendary. Howard obviously isn't as talented as Gronkowski, but the 2017 first-round pick does have some of the same physical traits. The Bucs tight end is listed at 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, and his speed is better than you might expect from a player with that much size and strength.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians even admitted last week that Howard's eyes should "light up" given Brady's history of success with tight ends.

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Howard could finally have a breakout season in 2020 with Brady throwing him the football, so he's understandably eager to get to work with the six-time Super Bowl champion. 

“For me, like everyone else, I was hearing the rumors about it, but I had to make sure it was true,” Howard recently said in a team interview. “When he signed, and I knew it was official, it was awesome.  Tom is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. So, to be able to have a guy like that with the leadership ability and a known winner on your team, it’s very encouraging to hear.”

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Brady isn't the only impactful move the Bucs have made in free agency. They've also upgraded their offensive line and brought back three important players -- Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh -- to a defense that excelled over the second half of the 2019 season.

"We brought our guys back, we got back Shaq, Suh, JPP -- all those guys," Howard said. "Those guys had a heck of a (2019) season. That's encouraging, to see our defense come back. Everybody is on the same page. The future is bright for us. I'm just ready to get it in motion."

Oddsmakers are similarly excited about the Buccaneers' upcoming season. They've given Tampa Bay the fifth-best betting odds to win Super Bowl LV, which actually will be played at the Bucs' home arena, Raymond James Stadium.